Many of the Innovation Architects at Recurve are former practicing attorneys and this valuable experience helps them develop better solutions for their law firm and corporate counsel clients. We recently posed three insightful questions to core members of the Recurve team (Leslie Brown, Kate Hathaway & Christiane Matuch), and we hope you find their answers both interesting and informative.
What Influenced Your Career Transition from Practicing Law to Becoming a Legal Innovation Professional?
Leslie Brown: Before law school, I spent a decade working at several Bay Area software companies in consulting and project management roles. When I started practicing law, it became apparent that responsiveness and billable hours were valued, while planning and efficiency were not. This was very different from my prior work experiences. To better understand the flow of legal work, and my role in it, I started creating process maps for my legal matters. I also started exploring tools that could help improve my efficiency. Eventually, I found that understanding the practice of law was more interesting to me than practicing law. I gradually transitioned from being an intellectual property attorney to a knowledge management attorney to a legal project manager, and now, a legal Innovation leader.
Kate Hathaway: As an associate at a small Chicago law firm, the unglamorous legal work often fell to me. It was important work, but not particularly interesting and the firm didn’t have the infrastructure to support it. To compensate for this gap, I developed my own processes and learned to work wonders in Excel, but I always thought there had to be a better way. When I moved into legal project management, the technology and other support tools had greatly improved, but far too often, I found myself improvising with the limited tools the firm had available. In some ways, I am grateful for this because the lack of tools and resources inspired me to think more creatively and always look for better ways of doing things. These key traits help me succeed as a legal innovation professional.
Christiane Matuch: My first role as an attorney was as part of a nationwide team defending a mass tort litigation. I soon figured out that the better we collaborated, the better the outcomes we delivered for the client. I pivoted my efforts to training the team to think differently about their role in supporting the business, changing our culture, and implementing technology. My goal became to embrace using metrics to optimize efficiency and effectiveness. The client really appreciated these efforts and understood that redesigning how legal services are delivered can directly impact how efficiently the business delivers.
How Does Your Prior Experience as a Practicing Lawyer Help You Guide Clients in Their Adoption of Legal Technology and Innovation?
Leslie Brown: Adoption is often most successful when the innovation aligns with the way users like to work, is an improvement over the current process, and the effort to adopt the new way doesn’t outweigh its value. I often use an example from back when I was a software consultant. A developer would excitedly tell me about some new product feature, and I would say, “That’s great, but what problem does it solve?” While the developer could produce clever code, he couldn’t articulate how it would benefit the user. There was a disconnect. The same is true for legal innovation. I think my experience as a practicing attorney helps me understand the priorities of lawyers and by “speaking their language”, I have some additional credibility when providing suggestions. As long as we take the time to understand the needs of lawyers and, more importantly, their clients, we can develop great solutions and help drive adoption, so they are used effectively to deliver value.
Kate Hathaway: Having practiced law, I share the same background as my clients. This firsthand experience with their goals and pain points allows me to develop solutions I know will make a difference in their legal practice. This is something my clients know and value. It is so much fun to work with clients who end up being more excited than I am about our innovations. It also helps that I “speak lawyer” and understand the complex legal landscape.
Christiane Matuch: One of my early mentors told me that “no matter what you do, be the expert and people will listen.” Being an attorney is not a pre-requisite to being an innovation professional, but the people you work with know that you have the same background and understand their craft. There is an instant trust that my efforts will not get in the way of their legal thinking, but instead help with the repetitive tasks that can be automated, provide templates to streamline efforts, and take tedious work off their plate, leaving them with more time for more sophisticated and interesting legal work.
What Emerging Legal Technologies or New Ways to Leverage Existing Legal Technology Are You Most Excited About?
Leslie Brown: I think more and more attention is being paid to streamlining processes and eliminating wasteful tasks. As a result, I expect that use of Rapid Process Automation (RPA) and workflow processing will gain momentum in the next few years. With the explosive interest in data, I also believe we will see the expanded use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools for mining data. Many technologies that are already used for e-discovery can and will be adapted for other legal situations.
Kate Hathaway: Artificial intelligence (AI) is making legal tools much more powerful. I remember the days when you had to do things like read contracts manually – it was not that long ago! – but now AI will not only identify the key provisions of a contract, but also provide you with a comparison of the differences between multiple contracts. Bots can be programmed to mimic human users and handle repetitive tasks like downloading documents or “reading” certain types of mail. This frees up the legal team to focus on more meaningful and interesting work. I can’t wait to see where legal AI goes in the next few years.
Christiane Matuch: I’ve had many moments where I told myself “There has to be a better way.” And there usually is. Be it educating people, streamlining processes, or implementing technologies. Often, it’s a combination of all three. If I had to pick an emerging legal technology that I’m excited about, it would probably be the use of workflow and document automation. It has been around for a while, but it is still not as widely used as it should be. Another exciting technology that is gaining popularity is virtual reality (VR) and its use as a training tool. I’m confident that we will continue to hear more about new ways to leverage virtual reality to augment legal services.